• Sean Keenan

How content strategy has evolved

As a concept, content strategy has existed for nearly 20 years now. Like many things, it’s far different than it was back than. The question is though, how different?

How things have changed

As stated in this article Rebecca Steuer, content strategy came about as a way to answer for the issue of the increasing amount of information posted by more and more people. Even now, that’s still a core part of the job of a content strategist. One of the key differences between when content strategy first began being recognized and now though, is that the focus on the quality of said content is far greater.

For example, in her 2008 article The Discipline of Content Strategy, Kristina Halvorsen states this in her opening paragraph

As a community, we’re rather quiet on the matter of content. In fact, we appear to have collectively, silently come to the conclusion that content is really somebody else’s problem—“the client can do it,” “the users will generate it”—so we, the people who make websites, shouldn’t have to worry about it in the first place. Do you think it’s a coincidence, then, that web content is, for the most part, crap? Dealing with content is messy. It’s complicated, it’s painful, and it’s expensive. And yet, the web is content. Content is the web. It deserves our time and attention.

This was around 12 years ago now and I feel you can tell. While obviously there’s still a lot of poor content on the web, the focus on making quality content is far greater than ever. Part of this is people evolving and growing with their content, but another aspect is the 2015 panda algorithm change google made. In this algorithm, Google is now focusing less on things like keywords and quality content that will quicker answer the question.

With this change in mind, content quality and SEO management crossed over into the same zone, increasing the responsibilities of the content strategist. Now they can’t focus on solely putting in keywords and letting the algorithm do the work, they have to focus on quality content that has a sense of purpose, or an idea.

What hasn’t changed

While content strategy has evolved over the years, there are still many aspects to it that remain the same. For one, much of the area's focus for a content strategist has remained the same. Optimal SEO searches and utilizing CMS’ are two key aspects that have remained similar through the years, simply just adapting to the times rather than being overhauled.

Another aspect of content creation that has remained the same over the years is the confusion still surrounding the subject by the masses. Take a look at the opening line of this article in 2007 by Rachel Lovinger

Not that familiar with “content strategy?” That’s ok. It’s in my job title, and I struggle every time I’m asked what I do for a living. Many people have no idea what it means, but even more people bring their own (wrong) assumptions to the conversation. Usually they think it has something to do with writing a copy. That’s not entirely false, but it’s kind of misleading.

And now take a look at this line again by Kristina Halvorsen, this time from her 2017 article What is Content Strategy

So, technically speaking, you can invoke the phrase “content strategy” in conversation when discussing any of these areas of activities, and you won’t be wrong. This is good news and bad news. It’s good news because it means you’re talking about content as a business asset that requires strategic consideration at every point along its lifecycle. It’s bad news because it means anyone can wave the content strategy flag without understanding (or caring) that whatever they call “content strategy” inevitably is interdependent upon a number of other factors, which—if ignored—can ultimately muck things up for your end user or business.

The article’s are 10 years apart, but listing similar examples of the struggles they deal with when trying to explain content strategy, in that many think they know what it is, but in reality they often are just spitballing. Even with the constant growth we face now, many still struggle with truly understanding the concepts we learn and share with each other.

Content strategy is an ever evolving method, constantly evolving with us in the digital age. While we have evolved both our content and our strategy behind them, there’s still new room to grow, along with the chance to better showcase to the masses what a content strategy truly us.


Dhloakiya, Pratik “A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update.” Search Engine Journal, 21 Nov. 2017, www.searchenginejournal.com/google-algorithm-history/panda-update/. Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

Halvorson, Kristina. “The Discipline of Content Strategy.” A List Apart, 17 Dec. 2008, alistapart.com/article/thedisciplineofcontentstrategy/.

Lovinger, Rachel. “Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data.” Boxes and Arrows, 27 Mar. 2007, boxesandarrows.com/content-strategy-the-philosophy-of-data/.

Traffic, Brain, and Kristina Halvorson. “What Is Content Strategy? Connecting the Dots Between Disciplines - Brain Traffic.” Www.Braintraffic.Com, 17 Oct. 2017, www.braintraffic.com/articles/what-is-content-strategy. Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

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© 2020 by Sean Keenan.